Sleeoing better when stopping alcohol
August 9, 2005 7:26 AM   Subscribe

I have decided to stop drinking for a while. Without going into too much detail- I drink alot. Stopping involves several nights of a special kind of hell while trying to sleep. Tossing, turning, very, very light sleeping, sweating, nightmares, etc. - it just sucks. I have taken Unisom and Valerian and other things (alone and together) to no avail. Is there a good way to minimize this ill effect (short of visiting the doctor)?
posted by pissfactory to Health & Fitness (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Benzodiazepines (Librium, Ativan, Valium) ease alcohol withdrawal symptoms.

Be careful, though. Alcohol withdrawal can become DTs, and those have killed people. If you're sweating and having vivid nightmares you're almost there.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:31 AM on August 9, 2005

Outside of seeking medical assistance exercise and a lot of determination are the only things I can think to recommend. AA can really be helpful if you find the right group. Doesn't work for everyone but I know several people for whom it was a lifesaver. I've been there. Good luck.
posted by Carbolic at 7:41 AM on August 9, 2005

Alcohol withdrawl can easily be lethal. FYI.
posted by docpops at 7:44 AM on August 9, 2005

Dude, go see your doctor. This is not the sort of thing they're going to be judgemental about - it's not like you're seeking their advice to increase your drinking. Also, it sounds like you might need to some help cushioning the landing. As others have pointed out quitting cold turkey can be haaaaarrrdd on your system. As a former binger who saw the inside of a hospital more than once due to drinking, all I can say is that it gets a lot easier the longer you hang in there.
posted by theinsectsarewaiting at 8:10 AM on August 9, 2005

Yeah, I know the risks. I also know m body and I have quit before. I'm not enough of a drinker to think of my symptoms as anything more than mild to moderate. I'm just looking for some kind of sleep aid that helps with the first few days as OTC stuff generally does nothing. Besides, I'd rather like to quit today, not next Tuesday when my doctor can squeeze me in.
posted by pissfactory at 8:13 AM on August 9, 2005

Try to wear yourself out with a ton of exercise, running errands, or scrubbing the bathroom.

When I'm not too lazy to just reach for the benadryl, I've had occasional success with conventional methods to combat insomnia. A warm glass of milk following a dinner of pasta and turkey. Chase it all with some melatonin for good luck.

Also, you could try meditation or relaxation techniques. Some of the insomnia may be a result of anxiety from quitting the drink.
posted by defreckled at 8:41 AM on August 9, 2005

Plus, sad as it is, by avoiding going to the doctor, he's avoiding getting "marked" by insurance companies as "high risk". I hate to say it, since he really could get hurt, but it is a financially good move ... if he doesn't die.

Seriously, compare rates for "preferred" and "talked to a doctor about alcohol problems" for term life. 400-500% higher.
posted by Invoke at 8:53 AM on August 9, 2005

Be very rigid in your sleep patterns. No naps. Get up at Xam and go to sleep at Ypm. That and the exercise and milk and stuff should help you out some. You might also call the local AA and see if someone can give you some advice. It may involve going to a meeting or two, but that may also be helpful.
posted by jmgorman at 8:59 AM on August 9, 2005

Agree with defreckled. Go with the traditional insomnia advice and you should be able to get yourself back on track for sleeping without needing a drink to drift off (I'm inferring from your post that you're a heavy regular drinker suffering from habit-interruption, not alcohol-withdrawl.) Keep regular sleep hours, don't oversleep on weekends, seek to reduce anxiety, get some exercise during the day, cut caffeine and smoking too close to bedtime, etc.
posted by desuetude at 9:00 AM on August 9, 2005

Drink orange juice and honey - a tablespoon of honey to each half-pint of oj. Some of the physical symptoms will be due to your body craving sugar, not alcohol (all booze has a high sugar content, even if it doesn't taste sweet). The oj/honey will give you vitamins and replace the sugar.

Vitamin B complex is good for jangling nerves too.

Good luck.
posted by essexjan at 9:18 AM on August 9, 2005

Advice from the insomnia side: do what you can to make your room very dark, even if it means taping up some towels over the windows for a few days. Consider turning your alarm clock up loud and relocating it out of eye range, both for the light it gives off and for its contribution to a restless night as you keep checking the time. Do you have an electric fan? Running it for white noise may also help. The idea is to minimize any wakings that start externally -- you won't be able to help it if dreams wake you, but if you can stop yourself from hearing the fridge click on, you may not wake as often.
posted by xo at 9:37 AM on August 9, 2005

I have to second Invoke. It's really lame, but way too true.
posted by small_ruminant at 10:17 AM on August 9, 2005

"Plus, sad as it is, by avoiding going to the doctor, he's avoiding getting "marked" by insurance companies as "high risk". I hate to say it, since he really could get hurt, but it is a financially good move ... if he doesn't die."

Add security clearance to that. When I filled out my SF86 form one of the question was "has your use of alcoholic beverages resulted in any alcohol-related treatment or counsiling?" No questions about if it's a problem etc etc... just if you got any treatment for it. Lesson: keep drinking.

Very sad.
posted by phearlez at 10:46 AM on August 9, 2005

Meditate. Worked for me and I was an alcoholic. Also go to AA.
posted by thimk at 1:44 PM on August 9, 2005

Yeah, definitely second the sugar thing. It's sort of counterintuitive, but alcohol and sugar are really entangled for heavy drinkers. Exhaust yourself and eat a gallon of ice cream. Seriously.

And there's the "Three M's" of course: Music, Meditation, and Masturbation. They always work.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 2:16 PM on August 9, 2005

Really boring audiobooks or tv shows turned down really low help me. I also recommend meditation, as others have mentioned, because even if you don't decide to make meditation a regular habit, many many people keep nodding off when they start trying to meditate. If you're looking for instructions, Jack Kornfield has a couple of audiobooks on meditation that you might find at the library. He has a very soft soothing voice.
posted by overanxious ducksqueezer at 11:49 PM on August 9, 2005

I don't particularly know why you can't go to the doctor since I'm not in the US, but they would you give you Diapam/equivalent to feel so much better after some sleep. But if that is no option and you have no doctor friends, Vitamin B12 is essential, that is what you are missing. It might take even 3 nights to a week after you stop drinking that you can actually fall asleep normally. But I can't stress this enough, DO NOT STOP COLD TURKEY. You could get fits, or DT which could cause death. Also, you are very dehydrated, drink, drink drink. If your urine is dark you are drinking too little, that's how you know. Water is fine, depends if you can eat - if not, take fruit juices, you can survive with them quite long. Good luck, my thoughts are with you.
posted by keijo at 2:46 AM on August 10, 2005

I'd just like to state for the record that, apart from my initial comment and that of docpops, everything else on this thread is irresponsible bordering on insane.

Alcohol withdrawal can be fatal. The poster's story is that of severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms, not routine insomnia, B12 deficiency, or anything else. Dark curtains over the windows are not going to fix this. Avoiding insurance company classifications is not of benefit to dead people, who can frequently be so dead that they don't even need insurance any more.

If anyone else ever reads this and thinks "Yep, that's me," get a physician's help.
posted by ikkyu2 at 1:13 AM on October 28, 2005

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